It was not the kind of reaction I expected.
I had written what I thought was an opinion piece on the new administration’s attitudes toward LGBTQ people and how we needed to be extra vigilant to preserve what advances we have made in securing our rights. I don’t get a lot of personal responses to my writing, but this time was different. This time, I got a very heated response that gave me pause.
It was not from a conservative defending Trump and his cronies, but from someone who I know is a genuine “bleeding heart” liberal. (I consider that term as a deep compliment, by the way.) And what he was upset about was the lack of a hopeful message in what I wrote, the lack of something reassuring to those of us in the LGBTQ community who are frightened.
I believe he expected me to help calm the nerves of people who rightfully might be afraid that things could go badly for us, and very soon.
Since he is a friend, I answered, telling him that I was merely expressing a valid fear and backing it up with several points that were disturbing. It was not my job to make readers feel safe and calm, after all.
That was several weeks ago, and since then I have thought long and hard on the subject, so I decided it was only fair to try to understand his point of view.
Today, things have not changed much with regard to the Trump presidency (a phrase that still makes me vomit in my mouth a little when I say it). What has changed is my attitude — and that’s what this is about.
Fear is a powerful emotion, and it has been successfully used as a tool, a weapon and a tactic by the Right, especially the “Alt-Right” (aka Neo-Nazis and white supremacists). They use it because it has been proven successful.
Fear drives people to do irrational things, and voting for Trump is just one example.
Fear led us to rescind some of the basic rights on which our country was founded. Fear made us suspicious of our fellow Americans simply because they wear a head scarf or turban.
Fear made our fellow citizens afraid of being served by waiters who were gay because of the false idea that AIDS could be spread by simply touching food. Fear led legislators to pass ridiculous laws about bathrooms and gym showers.
The world can be a scary place sometimes. That is the truth, and I won’t sugar coat it.
But fear is not an absolute, especially irrational fear. It is something we can embrace and take into ourselves, or we can reject it. It is ultimately our choice which path to take.
We can simply be pawns in the game, or we can take control of our emotions and change the rules. We can turn the energy we waste being fearful into energy we use fighting back. We can create action instead of reaction. We can do something instead of doing nothing.
We can fight the fear on the most basic level, and we can inspire and motivate others to do the same.
It starts with getting involved. That means getting off your ass, crawling out from under the blanket fort where you have been hiding and actually doing something.
Get involved in your community. Volunteer to help a political candidate who shares your views. Work with a social justice organization to bolster existing protections. Give to social and political causes that resist the growing nationalistic trend.
Share your opinions and concerns with your elected officials by attending town halls and demanding meetings when those same officials try to hide. Lobby your relatives; influencing their opinions is easier than influencing politicians and, in the long run, more effective for you. If you are really energetic, run for office, especially one that has been unopposed for too long.
Finally, take to the streets in organized peaceful protests if the situation warrants.
Will any of this instantly change things? No.
Because the world is not a video game where you can hit “reset” and have things get back to normal. These are not normal times.
But we can get busy to make a difference. Most of all, taking action reminds us that we are not powerless. Feeling powerless is a perfect way to fall prey to fear. Your action might not seem to make a difference at first, but after a few weeks I know you will not feel so afraid.
You might feel angry, frustrated and exhausted, but you will also feel accomplished. You will have taken a small measure of control back from that fear, and in doing so, you will be able to see reality clearer than ever.
You might also just change the world.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 28, 2017.